The development of hybrid quantum systems is central to the advancement of emerging quantum technologies, including quantum information science and quantum-assisted sensing. The recent demonstration of high-quality single-crystal diamond resonators has led to significant interest in a hybrid system consisting of nitrogen–vacancy centre spins that interact with the resonant phonon modes of a macroscopic mechanical resonator through crystal strain. However, the nitrogen–vacancy spin–strain interaction has not been well characterized. Here, we demonstrate dynamic, strain-mediated coupling of the mechanical motion of a diamond cantilever to the spin of an embedded nitrogen–vacancy centre. Via quantum control of the spin, we quantitatively characterize the axial and transverse strain sensitivities of the nitrogen–vacancy ground-state spin. The nitrogen–vacancy centre is an atomic scale sensor and we demonstrate spin-based strain imaging with a strain sensitivity of 3 × 10−6 strain Hz−1/2. Finally, we show how this spin-resonator system could enable coherent spin–phonon interactions in the quantum regime.